LOS ANGELES — As the Los Angeles Dodgers’ slugger Yasiel Puig flipped his bat and thrust his arms in the air to revel in a three-run homer and a 4-0 lead, Boston Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez watched the flight of the ball, spun around and spiked his glove on the mound. That stark moment, in the sixth inning in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday, suggested a championship opportunity slipping out of Boston’s control.
But with Boston’s relentless offense, that deflating sequence was ultimately and emphatically overcome. A pinch-hit home run by Mitch Moreland brought the Red Sox within one run in the seventh inning. Another blast, by Steve Pearce in the eighth, tied the score. Then, finally, a pinch-hit single by Rafael Devers in the ninth put the Red Sox ahead, and Pearce added a Dodger Stadium-silencing bases-clearing double.
Even after an exhausting 18-inning defeat in Game 3 and the dramatic home run by Puig, the Red Sox, with their usual sluggers sputtering, rode the contributions of role players up and down the roster and outlasted the Dodgers to claim a 9-6 win. With it, they pulled to within a victory of their fourth World Series title in 15 seasons.
Given the ravaged state of both teams’ pitching staffs after the Game 3 marathon, neither manager announced a starting pitcher for Game 4 until Saturday afternoon. Although Rodriguez appeared in Game 3, he faced only one batter and threw six pitches. So Red Sox Manager Alex Cora asked him to take the mound again a day later, but for much longer.
Before Game 3, the Dodgers’ Rich Hill spoke to reporters, as is customary for a starting pitcher the day before a playoff start. But after that game, the Dodgers said the starting pitcher for Game 4 was to be determined.
That was because they were toying with the idea, for the first time all season, of using an “opener,” a growing trend in the sport in which a relief pitcher starts the game based on matchups and then is replaced by the traditional starting pitcher capable of throwing more innings.
The Dodgers eventually opted against it, thinking that taking Hill out of his usual routine outweighed any potential matchup advantages. For what it was worth, Hill was also one of the Dodgers’ two pitchers not to appear in Game 3, so he was well rested.
Rodriguez, throwing harder than usual, and Hill, vexing batters with his ability to change speeds, dueled for five innings.
The Dodgers broke through first in the sixth inning, when Justin Turner scored on an error by Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez on an ill-advised throw to first base. Rodriguez, a left-hander, might have been tiring and due for an exit, but Puig, despite being a right-handed batter, has been more successful against right-handed pitching. So Cora left Rodriguez in.
When Rodriguez fell behind and threw a 92-mile-per-hour fastball down the middle of the plate, Puig did not miss. Soon after making contact, he flipped his bat and threw both arms in the air. As he rounded the bases, Puig blew kisses toward the stands and flexed his arms.
Rodriguez’s reaction was, understandably, exactly the opposite. After slamming his glove on the ground, he hunched over in a scene of backbreaking defeat until his manager came to retrieve him from the mound.
The half inning after the Dodgers emphatically took the lead, the Red Sox trimmed their deficit to one.
After six stout innings, Hill walked Xander Bogaerts to lead off the seventh and then struck out Eduardo Nunez. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts hooked Hill, who left the field to a standing ovation. But soon, the Dodgers’ mistakes were magnified.
Relief pitcher Scott Alexander walked his lone batter, Brock Holt. Roberts brought in the right-handed relief pitcher Ryan Madson for his fourth appearance of this series, though he has not inspired confidence. After Roberts turned to him again, Cora deployed back-to-back left-handed pinch-hitters.
Madson threw a subpar changeup and Moreland sent it deep into the right-field pavilion for a three-run homer. In right field, Puig put his hands on his head.
Clinging to a one-run lead, the Dodgers called on closer Kenley Jansen to pitch the eighth inning against the heart of the Red Sox order. And for the second straight game, Jansen gave up a game-tying home run.
In Game 3, it was to Jackie Bradley Jr. In Game 4, it was to Pearce — a solo blast to left-center field. Jansen’s face held a nervous expression when Pearce made contact. Pearce held one arm up in the air as he ran around the bases.
Pearce’s hit snapped an 0-for-41 streak by Boston’s No. 1 to 4 hitters since the start of Game 3.
The Red Sox became the second team in World Series history to hit game-tying home runs in the eighth inning or later in consecutive games. The other was the 2001 Yankees.
In the ninth inning, the Red Sox once again took advantage of the Dodgers’ bullpen and Roberts’s maneuvers. With Holt on second base, Devers poked a run-scoring single to center off Dylan Floro to give the Red Sox a 5-4 lead. With the bases loaded, Roberts brought in Kenta Maeda to face Pearce, who cleared the bases with a double. Bogaerts then drove Pearce home for a 9-4 lead.
It was enough to withstand a shaky bottom of the ninth by Craig Kimbrel, who allowed the Dodgers to trim Boston’s lead to three runs.